There was a time—in, as some pessimists might describe it, journalism's heyday— when reporters were specialists in their craft. They had beats. They covered the stories that came out of city hall, or the intricacies of D.C. politics, or the transportation headlines. These reporters conducted interviews, wrote well, and if they were lucky, worked their way up the ladder: to more reputable news publications, better salaries, editorial positions, management.
In some of the larger newspapers that dot the American landscape, this kind of specialization is still valued. There are still arts and entertainment, health and business experts out there, and their work is as important as it ever was. Yet, if my time at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has taught me anything so far, it's been the realization that the new reporter is not a specialist. The new reporter is a multi-tasker.
I began at the Post-Gazette with a vague title: "Multimedia Intern."As a new graduate and young reporter who had only previously worked in the print medium, I had expected to gain experience at One of America's Best Newspapers working alongside their web team. I envisioned myself editing a few videos, conducting interviews, and ultimately, adding another notch of experience to my résumé.
What I found was something completely different. As of my first day at PG, I was editing video segments for the web and shooting in-house video podcasts. By the end of my first week, I had gone out on assignment with a video camera and tripod and produced a news report for post-gazette.com. Now, about a month and a half later, I find myself constantly busy, always multitasking, and perpetually challenged. I've morphed from "Multimedia Intern," to part videographer, part photographer, part traditional reporter. I've written for the Post-Gazette's Summerburgh blog, learned how to shoot from a manual DSLR, started a long-term feature story for the print edition, and created video intro segments using software like Apple Motion and Final Cut.
While I've learned a fair amount here so far in terms of technical skills, what I've taken from this internship most of all is the full understanding that as the reporters of today and tomorrow, we must be adaptable. We must reinvent ourselves, learn new skills, and be willing to confront new challenges. Just as the 24-hour news cycle risks making coverage irrelevant after a few hours, we reporters risk becoming irrelevant, replaceable if we cannot evolve with the changing times.
We can no longer be specialists; we need to be good at everything.
Elisabeth Ponsot '10 (Beth) recently graduated from Colby College,where she majored in Government. Beth was formerly the Editor of the Colby Echo, and is currently a multimedia intern for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She plans to pursue a career in multimedia journalism, and is looking forward to a three month trip to New Zealand and Southern China this November. Beth's blogs can be found at: http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/living/summerburgh